WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to decide whether states can require voters to show a government-issued photo identification before they cast a ballot.
The justices’ ruling, due by the end of June, could have a major effect on the 2008 presidential election and congressional races in several states.
New photo ID laws in Indiana, Georgia and Arizona have been upheld in the past year, while a Missouri law was blocked from taking effect. By agreeing to hear an appeal from Indiana Democrats, the justices signaled that they wanted this legal dispute resolved before voters go to the polls next fall.
Since 2002, Republicans have championed photo IDs as a means to prevent fraudulent voting. Under the laws, a voter must show government-issued identification – such as a driver’s license or a passport – to prove to poll workers that he or she is the person registered to vote.
Democrats, however, have opposed the requirement, saying it tends to discourage people who usually vote Democratic. Tens of thousands of poor, elderly, disabled, homeless or foreign-born citizens do not have a valid photo ID card, Democrats say.
An AARP survey, for example, found that 3 percent of elderly registered voters in Indiana did not have a current driver’s license. Even if these people previously